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conflicts of interest board
October 1, 2013
Bronx BP education liaison suspended for using position for personal gain
Erica Veras, an education and community liaison in the office of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., tried to use her position to help her…
August 29, 2013
One possible reason why school construction takes so long
According to a ruling by the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, a School Construction Authority official has been suspended for interfering in the authority’s work…
June 24, 2013
Principal who retired amid investigation at Celia Cruz HS is fined
Students from Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music, from which William Rodriguez retired as principal in March amid investigations, performed at Grand Central Terminal. The city has taken its final step in disciplining a Bronx principal who colleagues and investigators said had played fast and loose with school funds. William Rodriguez retired from the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music on March 8, the same day he told people at the school that he would be stepping down. After a two-year-old inquiry, investigators found that he had billed the city for time he did not work and had a school employee assist him on personal projects. A spokeswoman told GothamSchools in March that the Department of Education would bar Rodriguez from working in city schools again. She also said the department would deduct the amount that Rodriguez had been overpaid from his final paycheck and benefit payout. Now, the city's Conflicts of Interest Board has fined Rodriguez $2,500 for paying an employee to work on his music business using school resources.
May 15, 2013
Name-dropping of students puts an author teacher on notice
A pair of Department of Education employees were separately warned this week for breaking city ethics laws, according to letters released today by an ethics board. In one case, a special education teacher, Faith Walters, used names of 15 former students without permission in a book she published in 2011. The letter doesn't name the book, but it appears to fit the description of a poetry book that sells on paperback for $15.99 on Amazon. The name of the author of the 67-page book is also Faith Walters and she describes herself as a New York City special education teacher. In the book's description, Walters said she was inspired by an experience she had when she first started teaching: The memory of my first day of teaching will forever be in my mind of having an almost fatal experience of losing one of my eyes because of a flying chair that hit the wall just as I opened the classroom door of 15 students who appeared to be very angry and fearful.
January 23, 2013
Ethics board ruling highlights tension in DOE "network" system
A Department of Education official broke ethics rules when he told the principals he worked with that he planned to join a different organization that also supports city schools, according to a ruling out today from the city's Conflicts of Interests Board. The ruling highlights a fundamental tension in the Department of Education's controversial "network" structure for providing support to schools. Under the five-year-old structure, dozens of networks compete against each other for schools to hire them to provide instructional and operational support. Nonprofit groups outside of the Department of Education are allowed to compete, in an arrangement that is meant to keep networks mean and lean — and also lays a minefield of potential ethical violations. Robert Cohen was leading a department-run network, Children First Network 104, last year when he got a job offer from CEI-PEA, a nonprofit group that works with dozens of schools through five networks of its own, according to the report. After he told the principals he supervised about the offer, they all applied to switch from the department-run network to CEI-PEA's. That meant they would give their schools' network fees to CEI-PEA, instead of keeping the funding within the department.
October 17, 2012
Teacher fined for charging students for soap, "character keys"
A Brooklyn teacher's efforts to teach character to his students netted him a $4,000 fine for violating city ethics rules. As part of a "Character Incentive Program" at P.S. 66 last year, teachers were instructed to award "character keys," or stickers that students could redeem for prizes. Marlon Scantlebury, a 14-year teacher who works with middle schoolers, decided to award "keys" to students who bought soap that members of his family produced, according to a disposition released today by the city's Conflict of Interests Board. At least five students bought soap at $3-4 a bar, earning dozens of character points, according to the disposition. One student also got a pass to avoid one night's homework when Scantlebury changed the reward for purchasing soap in January 2012. The venture, which earned Scantlebury no more than $30, violated rules that prohibit city employees from conducting personal business while at work and from using their positions as public servants to profit financially, according to the Conflict of Interests Board.
September 4, 2012
Fine of $3,500 added to termination threat for ousted principal
Lynn Passarella lost her position as principal of Theatre Arts Performing Company School in March when an investigation concluded that a host of academic and financial improprieties had taken place under her watch. This summer, the suspended adminstrator lost some of her savings, as well, when the city's Conflicts of Interest Board fined her $3,500 for two violations of city ethics rules. The board levied the fine in July after Passarella accepted its ruling, according to a disposition released today. Both offenses violated city rules that prohibit city employees from using their positions to benefit themselves or people close to them. In one, Passarella paid a school worker $60 to prepare an annual holiday party at her home. In another, she encouraged a community group that worked with TAPCO to hire her sister. The offenses turned up in the report issued in March by Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon, but they were not the impetus for the investigation or its main findings. We reported at the time: New York City’s top-ranked high school two years ago achieved its lofty score under a veil of academic improprieties that ranged from fudged student records to inflated test scores, according to a lengthy report released today by the Department of Education. ...
August 8, 2012
Administrator dinged for bailing out teacher facing foreclosure
When a special education teacher at M.S. 302 in the South Bronx found out in late 2009 that, like so many other Americans at the time, she was at risk of losing her house to foreclosure, she went to her assistant principal for help. The assistant principal, Larry Thornton, offered her a deal: He would buy the house from her, but then he would rent it out to her so she could continue living there. The teacher accepted the offer and had a lawyer hammer out all of the details. A month later, Thornton needed a helping hand himself. He went to the teacher — now also his tenant — to get a loan of $5,000. He must have seemed like a safe bet: A year earlier, he had borrowed from the teacher and paid back his loan in full. The teacher issued the loan and retired a few weeks later, in January 2010. Today, the city's Conflict of Interests Board announced that Thornton would pay a $3,500 fine for the transactions, which violated a city rule that bars employees from doing business with superiors or subordinates. Thornton accepted the ruling and agreed to pay the fine, according to a disposition the board released. According to a press release, both the board's investigative arm and a city office that looks into allegations of wrongdoing at schools, the Special Commissioner of Investigation, had worked on determining that the illicit transactions had taken place.
December 7, 2011
City fines teacher $10K for conflict of interest, "other conduct"
A $35 business proposition — among other offenses — cost a city teacher $10,000. Fay Inovlotska paid two students $35 earlier this year to hand out flyers promoting a daycare center with which she was associated, according to a report today from the city's Conflicts of Interest Board. That behavior violated rules prohibiting city employees from using their positions for personal gain, COIB concluded. Inovlotska — who earned just over $80,000 from the city last year, according to payroll data collected by the transparency website SeeThroughNY — agreed to pay a $10,000 fine to the Department of Education for the behavior "and other conduct," according to COIB's press release. Exactly what the other conduct was isn't specified in COIB's announcement. But Inovlotska's case came to COIB from the office of Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon, who looks into allegations of fraud and corruption in the DOE. Condon publicizes only a fraction of SCI's reports, even when allegations are substantiated. The only way to see unpublicized reports that Condon has forwarded to the DOE or to the ethics board is to file a Freedom of Information Law request, which we have done. SCI has published just seven investigation reports this year, down from 15 in 2010, 12 in 2009, 19 in 2008, and a high of 26 in 2007.
June 28, 2011
Alleged hate mail principal in trouble for violating city ethics laws
PHOTO: Stephanie SnyderRon Smolkin violated city ethics laws, according to a disposition released today (Credit: NY1 Screenshot) A high school principal who is accused of sending anonymous hate mail about one of his teachers is in trouble again. This time, he used city funds to pay a secretary to help him with his homework. Independence High School principal Ron Smolkin violated city ethics laws when he hired his secretary to proofread and edit his personal graduate work, according to a Conflict of Interest Board disposition released today. Smolkin paid her hundreds of dollars out of the school budget for the work, which took place over seven months between 2009 and 2010. The violation cost Smolkin a one-time fine of $5,000, which will come out of his salary. He made $145,000 in 2009. According to details of the disposition, the secretary edited 18 of Smolkin's essays, which were part of his work toward a doctoral degree at New York University. Smolkin authorized payments totaling $764.03 for 39 hours of work, a rate of $19 per hour. He also agreed to pay back the money to the Department of Education.
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